CONCERT REVIEW: URIAH HEEP’s Vintage Rock Splendor Invades Fort Lauderdale (April 23rd, 2024)

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Even when in the throes of their golden years, the forefathers of heavy metal have a certain gravitas on stage that is a cut above the rest. Case in point, 50 years + veteran act of the craft and one of the prime movers of the early 70s British rock/metal movement Uriah Heep, has remained undaunted in the face of changing times.

Though only guitarist Mick Box remains of the original fold that formed in the closing months of the 60s and would go on to set the 70s rock scene ablaze with their unique blend of hard and progressive rock influences played just a little too loud to pass as either of those two, the core spirit has remained on display in the decades since, as was witnessed by the throngs of attendees of the “Hell, Fire and Chaos Tour” that came rolling through Fort Lauderdale on April 23rd, 2024.

With the combined talents of longtime vocalist Bernie Shaw, as well as the somewhat more recently acquired rhythm section consisting of bassist Dave Rimmer and drummer Russell Gilbrook, Mick’s finely tuned hard rocking machine was in full gear right from when the opening chords rang out.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Accompanied by touring keyboardist Adam Wakeman (son of famed Yes keyboardist and composer Rick Wakeman), filling in temporarily for longtime bandmate Phil Lanzon and attacking the keys with the pizzazz and majesty of Jon Lord, the succession of vintage classics and newer entries that would round out Uriah Heep’s 70-minute set would be a force to be reckoned with, often blurring the lines between the band’s early 70s rock and progressive roots and the harder-edged NWOBHM stylings that they’d inspire in said movement, including that of Saxon, the headliners of this particular tour.

Throughout the performance, Bernie Shaw gave a master class in crowd interaction as the band wheeled through a raging 11-song set that included numerous entries from their 2023 studio album “Chaos & Colour” alongside the obligatory classics. Indeed, the opening foray “Save Me Tonight” kicked things off on a swift note and marked the beginning of a succession of stylistically consistent songs that were often more than 50 years apart from each other in conception.

Photo by Joel Barrios

The resounding bite of Box’s riffs and his wah-pedal steeped shredding were staples of both classic rock offerings like “Gypsy” and “Look At Yourself”, as well as newer entries like “Grazed By Heaven” and “Hail The Sunrise” (the latter seeing its first live performance this very evening), closely chased by Wakeman’s resounding Hammond organ timbres and noodling solos.

As with any veteran act that can’t help but ooze artistic credibility at every moment, isolating one or a few highlight moments of this marathon medley of monster anthems borders on being a fool’s errand. Nevertheless, one couldn’t help but note the kinetic energy of the crowd as this quintet effortlessly flew through the jazzy, upbeat “Free ‘N’ Easy” off 1977’s “Firefly,” to speak nothing for the raucous performance turned in by Gilbrook from behind the kit.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Likewise, the slow and heavy crawl of “Rainbow Demon” off the famed 1972 opus “Demons And Wizards” packed enough punch to rival the harder-hitting entries of Rainbow, despite predating said band by a couple of years. As far as vocal performances go, Shaw was in top form throughout the set but really set things ablaze during the epic slough of a ballad “July Morning”, arguably the only logical choice of song to close off such a riveting performance.

Naturally one would be remiss not to mention the brilliant encore performances of banger classics “Sunrise” and “Easy Living” that brought this 11-chapter story on stage to 13, but overall that task of choosing a favorite moment was near impossible if going by qualitative delivery.

Photo by Joel Barrios

For a fold of musicians that mostly consisted of those orbiting the age of 60, and masterminded by one well into his 70s, there was a youthful exuberance at work that was complemented further by a level of experience that left virtually zero opportunity for error. For those that might not have had the privilege to catch Uriah Heep during their heyday in the rocking 70s, or even the intermediate era of the band in the 80s and 90s when current vocalist Bernie Shaw entered the fold, this was a showing that likely rivaled those extravaganzas of yesteryear, and older attendees who had witnessed the original glory days no doubt completely agreed.

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